Ducati Streetfighter 848 road test review

Ducati's baby Streetfighter. Smiles like your Nan, punches like a pub doorman

There was a time where traction control was the preserve of superbikes and big-bore bruisers but now Ducati's Streetfighter 848 has muscled in on the big-boys, using the same traction control system as the firm's flagship superbike, the 1198SP.

That makes the Streetfighter 848 the smallest capacity motorcycle with traction control that you can buy. Something of a landmark and some might argue: a sign of the Health & Safety times we live in.

The original Streetfighter looked the part and backed up the looks with a brutal 1098 engine but perhaps that engine was just too brutal? The fact is, the Streetfighter 1098 never sold too well for Ducati in the UK and an educated guess would say the price-tag didn't help: £12,000 is a lot of money, even to the die-hard Ducatisti.

So let's start with price. The new Streetfighter 848 is £9,995, if that's too much for you, then don't read any further. I mean, what's the point?

I'm not sure many people buy a Ducati with a calculator in hand but if you did, you'd work out it's only £1,000 cheaper than an 848 EVO but £2,700 more expensive than a Monster 796.

I guess - like me - you're thinking: this bike had better be good.

So is it just an 848 EVO with the bodywork ripped off? Well no, not quite. There are a host of differences to the 848 EVO but here are the three that I think stand out:

The Streetfighter 848 uses an 11° camshaft - the same as used in the Multistrada and Diavel. It's there to help the engine produce more torque. It's got Ducati Traction Control (DTC), an 8-stage traction control system as used on the 1198SP, amongst others. It's got wide bars, mounted on risers so the Streetfighter 848 has a much more upright riding position.

Visually, it's almost identical to its bigger brother but look closely and you'll see the Streetfighter 848's got new wheels - which run a new profile 180/60 rear - and it ditches the Brembo monobloc calipers from the 848 EVO and uses the same radial-Brembos as the original 848. Are we done with the updates? Yes, I think so.

Fresh from the session on track we headed out for a 60-mile road ride around the hills next to the town of Modena - home of Ferrari -  no doubt the locals are used to the sound of a V12 howling through the countryside. I wonder whether they've heard the V20 of 10 Streetfighter 848s before?

School buses, gravel, stray chickens and lycra-clad cyclists were all thrown into the mix to keep things interesting.

What makes a motorcycle good on track can make it a hideous thing to ride on the road. Powerful brakes, firm suspension and an eager motor might equate to good lap times but doesn't necessarily mean it'll be a winner on the road. If you want an example of that, just look at the original Streetfighter 1098.

The torque of the new motor is noticable on track but it really stands out on the road. In 3rd gear, at almost no miles an hour the engine will gather speed without feeling like it's going to self destruct. The torque it produces belies an engine of it's capacity. It feels punchy and instant without being like an on/off switch; something larger displacement twins can suffer from.

Ducati will hate me for saying this but the Streetfighter 848 has Honda-like fuelling. There, I said it but if you get on a Honda, you just know the fuelling will be impeccable. Ducati are catching up.

Its fuelling is part of what makes this bike really confidence inspiring. The wide bars, firm but capable suspension and 180/60 section rear tyre - which increases the contact patch - all combine to give you plenty of feedback and trust in what's going on beneath you.

No matter what level your riding's at, if you have trust in the bike and know it's going to do what you want it to and go where you want it to go then that in turn gives you more confidence, trust and enjoyment from your riding. The Streetfighter 848's got that one well covered.

Despite its lack of fairing and wide bars, the wind-blast is more of a wind-breeze under 80mph, thanks to that sharp-looking headlight. At around 100mph you can notice the air on your shoulders and head but it's bearable. Above 100mph - for any sustained distance - and you'll soon find it harder to do your shirt's top button up.

For the first half of the road ride I kept the traction control on and worked hard to get it to kick in but it never did. So for the second half of the ride, I switched it off completely. It didn't alter my riding style at all. There's so much feel at the bars and so much grip available that I never once felt I was asking too much of the bike. It flicks into corners with ease and smooths over any imperfections in the road.

There were bits about the original Streetfighter 1098 that I loved: it would pick up a wheelie out of a corner with just an extra twitch of the throttle, it would make the bars flap under hard acceleration and it would bite back if you didn't keep on top of it. The Streetfighter 848 doesn't have any of that, which, depending on your outlook, isn't a bad thing.

It's fun without being scary, it's fast without being ridiculous. If you like your bikes lairy and scary then the original bike is probably still for you. If you want a package that will flatter your riding and airbrush over the bumps and lumps in the road, then the Streetfighter 848's definitely up your street.

It might be the smallest capacity motorcycle with traction control but you shouldn't think it's an edgy, fiesty beast that needs it. It really doesn't and I can't help but think Ducati could have lost another £1000 off the price without it and probably tempted more people to try one.

Get a test ride if you can - you won't regret it.

You can read my Streetfighter 848 track review here and see my Streetfighter 848 onboard video lap here.